“There’s always a little truth behind ‘just kidding,’ a little emotion behind ‘I don’t care,’ a little pain behind ‘I’m OK,’ a little need behind ‘Leave me alone.’” (Truth Quotes), which I picked up at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.
Wow, is that little saying powerful! We all tend to hide behind words like “just kidding” or “I’m OK” or “Leave me alone”, when we should be asking for help or at least letting those who are trying to help into our lives. Why is that? I suppose it all comes down to trust and letting your defenses down enough so that someone can understand the pain or the loneliness or the sorrow that you are feeling and offer their help.
A key thing to understand is that most people really do want to help, but you may be so effective at masking your pain or blocking out everyone that they can’t get through your defenses to be able to help. Now, I’m not suggesting that you walk up to a perfect stranger and begin pouring your heart out about your issues or problems; but, we all have someone or a few people that we know well enough to share a problem and ask for help. Many times that is a family member, but it could just be a best friend from school or work or maybe a pastor or minister.
That last group – clergymen – is full of people who are usually both well trained and experienced at listening to people’s problems and finding ways to suggest fixes or at least to offer comfort. It’s true that they will probably give you advice that includes getting back in touch with your own religious beliefs; but those beliefs are really the foundation from which you can find the strength to make it through anything.
So, the next time you hear phrases like “just kidding” or “Leave me alone” or “Really, I don’t care”; little red flags should go up in your mind and your goal should be to understand “How can I help this person?”. Sometimes it is not just a defense mechanism on their part; sometimes it indicates that they are still in denial about whatever it was that they are claiming just doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a defensive move or they are still in denial, the first step to helping them is always to get them to talk about it with you.
Many times what they relate to you may bring up a memory of a similar incident in your life that you can use with them to show them how you dealt with it and how they might approach the problem and you did. Sometimes what they lay out may just have you saying, “Wow, I can’t even begin to understand what you must be going through.” Those are probably issues or problems that need the help of trained professionals or clergy and your help will be to try to get them to visit with someone like that that can help. That is especially true if what you are hearing sounds like a person contemplating suicide. There are trained people manning hotlines to help with that and you should try to hook them up with someone like that, rather than try to talk them off the ledge yourself. It might help if you volunteer to go with them or to make the call with them, but you should not try to act as if you are a suicide counselor.
For other issues there are also community-based programs that offer help to troubled youth or youth from troubled homes. In Oakland County, Michigan, those programs operate under the umbrella of the Youth Assistance Program. I recently wrote about a fund raising event for YA in our community on this blog. Click here to read that post, which also explained some of what the program offers.
Many times, at the opposite end of life’s journey, it is the elderly that need someone to share some time with. They may be lonely or feel trapped in their homes because of failing health or safety concerns. Taking the time to stop by, “just to see how you’re dong” can make their day. Unlike youth, these are also people who are full of fascinating life stories sometimes gathered over impressive spans of time. They may also surprise you with their insights into issues in your life and perhaps shine a light of perspective on them that you have not seen before. In most cases, you’ll be surprised how sharp and alert those old folks are. For most of us the body starts giving out to age, but the mind never really ages.
So, keep an ear open for the catch-phrases that are really calls for help and be ready to respond. You might even listen for them in your own life; and, if you hear them, ask yourself – “What am I denying? Who can I go to for help?”